English singer-songwriter Elton John has been very active in off-stage matters throughout his career, particularly with charity work. His website offers details about his involvement with the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Lunch Around the World, and the Gus Dudgeon Foundation.
Of course, a charity’s integrity is of paramount importance when seeking to maintain significant donations. So Sir Elton wasn’t too thrilled when British newspaper The Times implied that the musician had followed the guidance of accountant Patrick McKenna, who is accused of advising British film investors to abuse film tax breaks. The Times ran two stories on the topic, both containing the byline “the secrets of tax avoiders.”
BBC News is reporting Elton John has sued The Times for libel over The Times’ insinuations.
Sometimes you hear about celebrities suing for defamation or libel. What’s the difference?
Here in the States, libel is a type of defamation. Another type of defamation is slander.
Slander is defamatory matter addressed to the ear. It is usually unpremeditated, spoken ad lib, with limited circulation.
Libel is defamatory matter addressed to the eye, such as writings, pictures and statues. Libel suggests forethought and achieves permanence through print or other permanent form.
A public figure asserting defamation must demonstrate the defendant’s statement was made with “actual malice,” or knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.
After publishing the articles, The Times published a correction, stating that Patrick McKenna never served as Sir Elton’s accountant.
Clearly, Elton and his lawyers were left unsatisfied with the apology. Perhaps you are left satisfied with the short defamation lesson previously taught to me in torts class during law school.